CFA requirements in a notebook

Posted by: Kaplan Schweser
Updated: August 11, 2020

The CFA® charter requirements include specific educational prerequisites, an exam, work experience, and CFA Institute membership. Although meeting these requirements can be challenging, becoming a CFA charterholder can open many doors for you in global finance. You also gain real-world expertise that will help you better serve your clients for the rest of your career. This article breaks down the requirements in detail to help you understand what you need to do to earn the charter.

Pass the CFA Exam

To earn the CFA charter, you must first pass the CFA exam. There are three exam levels with unique topics and learning focuses. The topics include investment tools, ethics, asset valuation, and portfolio management. Each exam level tests different learning focuses. Level I focuses on knowledge and comprehension, while Level II is based on applying concepts and analysis. Level III focuses on synthesizing information and making evaluations, and a portion of it has an essay section called constructive response.

The CFA exam is challenging. According to CFA Institute, candidates spend an average of 300 hours preparing for the exam for each level, and many find it easier with exam prep packages. It takes many candidates more than one attempt to pass each level. If you do not pass a level, you can take it again the following exam season. Here are the requirements for taking the exam:

  • Meet the CFA exam education prerequisite: To sit for the exam, you’ll need to have earned a bachelor’s degree or be in the final year of your degree. However, if you have four years of relevant work experience or you have a combination of university education and work experience that totals four years, you could be eligible to take the exam.
  • Have the proper documentation: To register for the Level I exam for the first time, you must have an international travel passport. It is the only form of identification accepted at the exam centers.
  • Enroll in the CFA Program: The CFA Program is a self-study, graduate-level curriculum. You can start your enrollment from this CFA Institute web page.
  • Understand the exam language: All three levels of the CFA exam are administered only in English.
  • Live in a country where CFA Institute conducts business: Individuals who live in certain countries cannot take the CFA exam because of U.S. laws, sanctions, and trade regulations. CFA Institute has all the details.

Are you thinking about taking the CFA exam? Download this free Before You Decide to Sit for the CFA® Exam eBook.

Meet Work Experience Requirements

To become a charterholder, you must have 4,000 hours of professional work experience with a focus on investment decision-making in no less than 36 months. Internships are accepted as experience if they are paid and full-time. In addition, if you own a business or work with a family business, that business can qualify you if your work is full-time, and you are paid for it.

Become a Member of CFA Institute

To receive your charter, you must become a member of CFA Institute. You can become a member while you are in the process of getting the charter or wait until the end. The application process has three phases, and it typically takes a few weeks to get approved. To apply, you must have:

  • Passed at least Level I of the CFA exam
  • Earned a bachelor’s degree or equivalent education and work experience
  • Provided three professional references

You are also strongly encouraged to join a local CFA Society to network with your peers and take advantage of local continuing education opportunities.

Abide by the Code of Ethics

As a CFA Program candidate or CFA Institute member, you are required to abide by the Code and Standards of Professional Conduct, which are the ethical benchmarks for investment professionals around the world. The Code maintains that you must place the interests of your clients and the integrity of the profession above your own interests and that you must act with respect and professional competence.

Ready to Learn More about How to Become a CFA Charterholder?

If you’re thinking about becoming a CFA charterholder, we have five good reasons why you should get started. If you’re planning to take the CFA exam, you can explore exam preparation options here.

Before You Decide to Sit for the CFA Exam

Free eBook: Before You Decide to Sit for the CFA® Program Exam

CFA Fundamentals eBook

Free eBook: CFA® Program Fundamentals, 2nd Edition